Why your first job out of college really, really matters


Many college graduates are eager to find work — any work. But that first job, however arbitrary, can impact the rest of their career. Recent grads who end up in jobs that didn’t require a college degree are five times as likely to still be in such a position five years later, compared with those who put their diploma to use right away.

It can be hard to break out of that path, since employers may typecast applicants by their most recent experience.

Ten years later, three-quarters of graduates who took jobs early on that didn’t demand a degree will be in the same spot. And these graduates earn around $10,000 a year less than their counterparts who started early in jobs that required a college degree.

“You have to be strategic about your first job,” said Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, a nonprofit that focuses on the relationship between education and work.

These findings come out of a new report by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies, a career market analytics company. The researchers analyzed more than 4 million resumes.

“Young adults underemployed after graduation can’t consider it just a phase,” the report reads. “A few months can easily turn into a few years and eventually an entire career.”

More than 40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree, the study found.

And more than 1 in 5 college grads still aren’t working a degree-demanding job a decade after leaving school.